Spaghetti Carbonara – the Classic Recipe

I won’t dwell too much on the name origin of pasta, specifically spaghetti Carbonara, for which many are the presumed stories , but none of them sure. What is certain is that this classic recipe from Lazio was popular only after the Second World War, it is one of the most famous recipes in the world, and also one of the simplest pasta sauces there are to make. Even with the internet, and with some Italian chefs becoming very popular around the world, there’s always a lot of curiosity about this recipe and the actual way you’re supposed to make it. It is definitely a winner at dinner parties with Anglo-Saxon friends – who will be awed at how magically you pull together their favourite breakfast ingredients in a dinner dish. This recipe serves two people.

  • Ingredients:
  • 200g dried spaghetti
  • 120g smoked bacon lardons (yup, bacon does just fine for this one, but of course if you could pass by the Italian deli, get 120g guanciale)
  • 100g pecorino cheese (if you don’t have it replace it with parmesan, or use 50g pecorino and 50g parmesan) for the cream
  • 40g pecorino cheese to add to your dish before serving (optional)
  • 3 eggs (the rule is one per person + one for the pan)
  • salt and black pepper

Step 1 – Put a generous amount of salted water (the taste of the water has to remind you of the sea) into a large pan, and bring to the boil. In the meantime, in a wok, fry your bacon in a splash of extra virgin olive oil, or – if you’re using guanciale or pancetta – let it fry in its own fat. Let it cook until golden and crunchy. Then turn the heat off and keep it in the wok, on the side.

Step 2 – Once the water is boiling, add the spaghetti, and stir a little till they are all covered by water and cooking within stable bubbling water.

Step 3 – Prepare your sauce. Beat the eggs and the yolk together, and add part of the grated cheese until you reach a creamy consistency. You don’t need to add cream or butter. The grated cheese will be enough to reach the consistency you need, just have a little faith and sprinkle some pepper on it. I know that nowadays many recipes suggest you use only the yolk. Think about it, would a mamma from the post-world-war times use only half of an egg? So I’d say, only use the yolk of that extra egg, in case you want your pasta to be very yellow. Or, if you haven’t got enough cheese at hand, using only the yolk can be a good solution.

Step 4 – Add one ladle of pasta water to the pan with the bacon/guanciale. Remove your pasta one minute before it’s cooking time is over. Drain it and put it in the wok, turn the heat on again and let the pasta fry gently in the pan with the bacon/guanciale, the fat that was released by frying it and the water. This will create a gentle emulsion that will make the pasta velvety.

Step 5 – Now you’re ready to add the sauce. Let the wok do the job of keeping the heat high, and turn off your stove. If you’re not using a wok, you can keep the hob on but to the minimum. Add all the sauce on the spaghetti. Then gently turn the pasta, by lifting chunks of it again and again, making sure the sauce is wrapping your spaghetti, deliciously coating it. Serve up and add the remaining grated cheese on the top if you like. Grind some black pepper and dig in!


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